Which Is it—a Rope or a Line?

What is a rope? What is a line? What is the difference? Many recreational boaters think that these two words are interchangeable–that a rope is a line and a line is a rope. This is not true.

Rope is unemployed cordage. In other words, when it is in a coil and has not been assigned a job, it is just a rope.

On the other hand, when you prepare a rope for a specific task, it becomes employed and is a line. The line is labeled by the job it performs; for example, anchor line, dock line, fender line, etc.

For more information on ropes and lines, see our “Making Ropes Into Lines” e-Lesson. Learn how ropes are made, the different types of rope, what size and length to use for which lines on your boat, how to care for them, when to replace, how to prepare lines with eye-splicing, whipping and backsplicing, and much more is covered in the e-Lesson.

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